Lets feed Portland!

April 7, 2020

 In these uncertain times, people are concerned about their economic future and where their food is going to come from. Coupled with that, people being sent home has created abundant free time. When you combine those two things, it is only logical that many people will be considering growing their own fruits and vegetables this year. 

 

During World War I and II, the country bought into this concept with a flood of "Victory Gardens". Our Government encouraged people to start small gardens and become more nutritionally independent. What an excellent concept. Locally grown food will allow people to get outside and also to improve their own nutrition, as well as improving overall mental and physical health. This idea could be a wonderful addition to our community, enabling us to gain additional food resources and filling in the gaps for our friends and neighbors. Local farmer Mandy Teachworth, when asked about the topic, thought it was amazing. "Eating out and Apple Pie are about as American as you can get.  However in times like this, we might need to fall back to our roots, literally.  It is amazing to look back on the history of the Victory Gardens.  Canned food was used for the troops in World War II, and the government encouraged people from every walk of life to plant something.  Neighborhoods, families, friends and strangers all banned together to grow, harvest and feed America. These Patriots putting their needs aside, became humble, efficient and caring, in a time when America needed them the most. Even in this time of quarantine, let’s get to  know our neighbors, understand their needs and most of all give back to our Country that has given us all, so much."

 

When planning a small home garden, it is very beneficial to evaluate your needs and focus your energy to maximize your effectiveness. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to grow a mountain of tomatoes if  you don't like tomatoes. Having a plan to deal with an abundance of a certain vegetable is critical. Using tomatoes to make salsa or spaghetti sauce is a common activity, and quite easy with a little bit of canning or freezing know how. Fresh salsa is incredible, and homemade pasta sauce can be made cheaply and the recipe can be specific to your own tastes. Potatoes are another reasonably easy vegetable to grow, and potatoes store well and are full or vitamins, nutrients and are one of the best methods to grow a maximum amount of calories in a small space. In terms of maximum economic benefit, it is hard to argue with growing your own fresh herbs. A small herb garden is easy and cheap to grow, and there is nothing like picking your own fresh cilantro or basil to add to your favorite dishes. Fresh herbs, if bought at the store are quite expensive and growing your own can save some money. In terms of sweets, it is hard to beat planting a Strawberry patch. Strawberries are quite productive, and they spread on their own. Raspberries are another low labor fruit, that will produce with very little effort on the part of the farmer. Peas, beans, corn, beets, carrots, and other vegetables taste far superior when grown by your own hands and harvested with your family. The native american's in this country had a fascinating method called "The Three Sisters" where they grew corn, squash and beans together and the plants cooperated with each other to minimize labor, and maximize productivity. This summer, without time intensive activities like baseball, softball, and other youth activities, letting your children weed and tend a garden could be a fantastic opportunity to let them learn some practical skills, but more importantly, growing things can be very satisfying. 

 

Another idea has been the explosion of people raising chickens for eggs and meat. Speaking with local suppliers of Chicks, there has been a historic rise in demand for young chickens over the past few weeks, leading them to be sold out at Family Farm and Home. A few years ago, I also raised a small flock of chickens, and can speak from experience that it was fun and reasonably easy. It wasn't an incredibly cost effective method of raising eggs (eggs are seriously cheap at the grocery store, and it is very unlikely that you can compete with that price by raising your own), but the eggs are healthy and delicious and chickens are just plain hilarious. If you have some extra land for pasturing and woods, "free ranging" chickens will mostly feed themselves on weeds and bugs and give you some truly magnificent eggs full of additional nutrition and flavor. Even without the ability to free range, you can feed chickens table scraps and supplement with corn or chicken feed and your eggs will be delicious and you will gain satisfaction from obtaining your own eggs. 

 

What about other ideas for community self sufficiency? During these times of frequent product scarcity, is there a local production option for things like bread, flour, toilet paper? Are there other ideas that you have to make our community more productive? What ideas would you like to see from your neighbor and city leaders? How can we as a community strive to support each other in the coming months and years? Email jim@theportlandbeacon.com with your ideas and spread this article to your friends and neighbors. 

 

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